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Envy at workplace: Tackling with Wisdom

Reproduced from Tattvaloka, the Splendour of Truth, with permission. www.tattvaloka.com

Absence of envy is a prerequisite for personal and professional development

Envy or jealously is a negative emotion that tends to have destructive impact on anyone’s productivity in the workplace. An envious person measures himself or herself against someone else in the office and, in his eyes feels falling short. This breeds animosity towards the other person and, as a result, he knowingly or unknowingly starts to pull the other person down beneath one’s own imagined ‘status’.

Harold Coffin, a senior scientist in the US, who specializes in the areas of creation and evolution, says envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.

Envy Disrupts:

Envy disrupts harmony in the workplace. It damages relationships, affects team work and undermines the organizational performance. Envious persons tend to create internal cliques, and launch ‘strategies’ to bring dishonor to the persons ‘hated’. Such groupism and internal politics bring about disharmony in the working environment.

Envious staffs fixated on rivals tend to lose focus on their own performance. In the process, they cause damage to their own mental and physical health

Never Compare

There are two major reasons for envy: a feeling of personal insecurity, and low self-esteem. Our ancient wisdom provides valuable guidelines to tackle these negative tendencies in personal and professional lives.

At the workplace or in personal life, our scriptures advise that one should never compare himself with any other person. Our comparisons take place through our sense organs or infriyas, which make a superficial assessment of another person based on his looks, attitude. Our scriptures declare that the nature of life a person enjoys is the result of his past karmas, as the supreme force dispense with the ‘fruits’ of karmas performed by him. The Vedas declare that if one shows goodness, he will reap goodness; if he sows evil, he will reap evil.

The Gita says anishtamishtammishram cha trividhakar—manahphalam, the threefold fruit of action—evil, good and mixed—accrues in this life, and even after death, to one who has not relinquished the fruit of such action. Those who envy fails to note that the good fortune someone enjoys is due to his good karmic effect.

Self-hurt of Envy:

The principles of dharma determine that those attempting to hurt others out of envy would themselves pay a price. Duryodhana is a classic example of this tenet, as shown in the Mahabaratha. He became jealous when Yudhisthira performed the Rajasuya sacrifice that made him emperor of the world, and hatched plans to torment him and the other pandava princes. The irony was that all such attempts worked towards strengthening the Pandavas

The story of Duryodhana’s envy of Bhima’s physical valour and how his wicked plan to put him to death had gone awry is beautifully explained in the epic.

Duryodhana invited all the pandava princes for an enormous lunch in a mansion on the banks of Ganges and, seated next to Bhima, he fed him with food mixed with deadly poison, feigning love and affection. The guileless Bhima cheerfully consumed the food.

When the feast was over, Duryodhana suggested they all go down to the river for sport. After tiring water frolics, Bhima felt drowsy and lay down by the river to rest, while the other Pandava brothers returned to the resort. As Bhima lapsed into unconsciousness, Duryodhana bound his arms and legs and tossed him into the river.

Carried by the currents, Bhima was swept along a mystical path into the abode of snakes, which bit him, their virulent poison proving to be the antidote to the plant poison that Duryodhana had administered.

Regaining consciousness ,Bhima burst open the cords binding his limbs ,at which point he met with Arka, the chief of the snake tribe ,who was the great grandfather of Bhima’s mother, Kunti, in his earlier incarnation .Recognizing Bhima, he embraced him ,and offered him a divine concoction ,rasa, that would endow him with the Vigour and strength of a thousand elephants.

Bhima thus returned to join his brothers with renewed power and strength to take revenge on Duryodhana.

Managers’ Role:

In their organizational role, managers may have to deal with envy directed not only at senior people, but also at themselves. While they cannot control others envy by denying promotion to their best team members, or by turning down performance rewards by themselves, they can manage the negative energies of others through positive steps.

One such step could be that managers share the collective glory of the team with subordinates and reward them with more responsibility and credit .This helps to create motivated future leaders and internal allies.

Learn to manage negative emotions of others by engaging them directly, for example by means of one to one discussion, carefully listening and encouraging any positive notes such enviers come up with. By enabling enviers to carve out separate domains within their expertise, managers can curtail their tendency for individual comparisons.

It is also important to pay attention to the verbal (and non-verbal) communication of managers during group interactions. It may be wise not to heap too much public praise for a team member’s ‘leadership’ or such skills, which could be interpreted as overlooking the importance of collaborative followers. Restraint in praise and being truthful while paying compliments are hallmarks of brilliant leaders.

Positive Envy:

Jealousy is not malicious at all times .If used appropriately; envy can drive someone to work harder to achieve more impressive performance.

In their 2011 study titled ‘Why Envy outperforms Admiration?’ Prof. Niels van de van and his associates at Tilburg University in the Netherlands separate envy into two Categories: Malicious envy, which seeks to condemn and remove the competition, and benign envy, which is the desire to emulate and admire the competition.

Benign envy motivates people to improve themselves, such as acquiring professional training or qualification .Those who genuinely feels that self-improvement is attainable benefit by upward social comparison, which makes them work harder and achieve impressive goals.

This is evident in professional sports where every athlete looks at how the other guy is performing and tries to outdo them.

Envy can thus be a motivating factor when under control, but it becomes a destructive force when berserk.

Anasuya is Wealth:

The Sanskrit word, anasuya, means absence of envy, jealousy and malice. The Illustrious guru, sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa,had said that a man given to envy ,anger and timidity never grows in spiritual stature. To feel jealous of others even in trivial matters suppresses the humanitarian instincts in a person.

Yoga Vasishtham, the popular advaitic text in the form of replies given by sage Vasishtha to Lord Rama’s queries on philosophical issues, advises people aspiring for peace of mind to abjure negative tendencies, such as envy. Anudwega shriyomoolam, not getting easily agitated is the root cause of wealth, declares sage Vasishtha.

Thus, anyone wishing to gain professional and material advancement in the workplace or growth in personal spiritual path needs to bear in mind this Prerequisite of Anasuya.